Throughout my many years of watching horses, I have seen my share of bad horse behavior. Always the very first question I ask myself is, “What would cause that horse to behave in that way?” I take a look at the behavior of the people that are handling that particular animal. Next, I would take notice to the physical condition of the horse, whether he or she is under or overweight, what kind of equipment is being used on the horse and exactly what it is that is being asked of this particular animal.
All horses cannot be all things. Thoroughbreds, even though they are bred to do so, may not want to be a race horse. Not all horses can be pleasure horses or jumping horses or horses for young children. Just as we all have different desires, so do horses. They cannot sit and tell you what it is that they prefer to do but they can relate this to you by their actions. If you consistently ask a horse to jump over fences and they refuse or keep knocking down the fence, well it just may not be what they want to do. So, a horse that constantly either refuses or ducks out, or falls into fences is considered to be exhibiting bad behavior. But, there may be other things involved. Maybe the horse is being schooled over fences too often or ridden too hard on a daily basis and is being pushed into this bad behavior. Most of the time in my experience, bad behavioral problems in horses are usually caused by human error. Horses that have become what would be considered crazy, by some people, were not born that way. It is because of the desires of human demands or negligence of understanding their desires that are causing them to behave in unusual ways.
Let’s say that you are using a saddle that does not fit your horse properly. Every time you ride, your horse’s withers are getting more and more sore each time. The muscles start to become atrophied causing less cushion and, in turn, more soreness. Now when you go to put the saddle on your horse, he or she starts moving around a lot, or tries to step on you, or when you go to tighten the girth, your horse seriously tries to bite you. This bad behavior is in direct response of having withers that are so sore that they cannot stand the thought of one more day of pain. Or perhaps tightening up the girth too much and causing your horses’ girth area to become very sensitive and sore and every time you try to tighten the girth they want to rear up. This is their way of saying, please do not inflict this pain on me another day. They cannot turn around and say, excuse me, please don’t tighten that girth up because it really hurts. Instead they rear up. This is there way of trying to communicate with you, and in their world, this body language would be understood.
All I am trying to say is that if a horse starts behaving badly, you need to take a very close look at every aspect of your actions with them. Or, ask yourself what, if anything, has changed recently. Has there been a change of stalls, pastures or different horses turned out with your horse. Does your horse really understand what it is that you are asking of them, or is it possible that they may be confused? If you have a horse that starts flipping over backwards, examine your saddle pad and your saddle. Perhaps the bit you are using is too severe, or maybe your horses back is really sore. Maybe this particular animal needs a different rider. Ask questions about everything.
Sometimes the answer is not very easy to find but I believe that there is always a solution. However, the solution may not always fit into your realm of things and you will have to take that into consideration. Learning to speak horse language is not something that will come to you in a year or two. The longer you have horses in your life, the more hours you spend with them, the more you will understand their language and will be able to communicate with them on their level.
If you have a horse that is turned out with certain horses and he or she is beating up all the other horses, even though this is bad behavior, you may have to either turn this horse out with a different herd of horses or keep this horse away from other horses until you can find a suitable buddy. Sometimes when we have a horse come into our life, certain behaviors have already been developed and there is only so much we can do.
This is not to say that some horses are not born in the correct mental state, but I do not think that the percentage is very high. How a horse is handled from birth makes a major difference in the individual that they become. In the course of breaking yearlings on Thoroughbred farms for five years, many times the yearlings that were the worst to break, after they understood what was expected from them, with time and patience, became the most desired to ride. Put yourself in their shoes, look at the problem from a different perspective using the knowledge that you have acquired about horses and perhaps you will be enlightened. Patience and understanding are your best tools in handling a difficult horse. Remember that horses are creatures of habit. Instilling proper behavior into their lives, constantly, over and over may help them to adopt the better behavior. Most horses will come around providing they are given a fair chance and the love that they truly need.